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A Data-Driven Guide to Hiring Full-Stack Developers

Full-stack developer illustration

We’ve all heard it before: tech recruiting is a candidate’s market. And few candidates are as in demand as full-stack developers.

Full-stack development is one of the fastest growing jobs in the world. When you think about what they do, it’s not hard to see why. By definition, they’re the ultimate all-arounder—they have working knowledge across all layers of a given tech stack, and can generate a minimum viable product on their own. Their unique skill set puts them in astronomically high demand.

To increase your chances of landing a stellar candidate, we’ve put together a portrait of today’s full-stack developer. We’ll arm you with data-backed insights to build your full-stack developer candidate persona, based on our 2019 Developer Skills Report.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Who they are

Full-stack developers make up a whopping 23% of the total developer population, making them the most common role amongst all developers.

About 27% of them are actively seeking new jobs, and almost 9 in 10 (89%) have sought new jobs within the last 3 years. The remainder of the developer population follows a similar pattern.

The average full-stack developer identifies as a man, has a bachelor’s degree, and works as a senior developer. They’re slightly less likely to have completed higher education: 80% of full-stack developers hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 84% of others.

Even though developers overall are predominantly men, full-stack developers are especially likely to be men. In fact, only 9% of full-stack developers identify as women, compared to 12% of all developers.

Where to find them

One way to track down full-stack candidates? Figure out where they spend their time. Our data shows that the vast majority of full-stack developers work at small companies. In fact, 68% currently work at companies that employ less than 1,000 people.

Online, they have a significant presence on public projects sites like GitHub and Gitlab. A staggering 82% of full-stack developers have public projects accounts, compared to 75% of all developers.

They’re also more likely to be active on those accounts: 68% have submitted something within the last year (vs. 60% for all developers). It means they’re more likely to be found on public project websites day to day—which makes those sites an especially powerful sourcing tool for this audience. Just be mindful that these spaces are for developers first: take care in your approach.

What they know

It’s hard to define a good full-stack developer candidate without understanding their skillset. JavaScript, SQL, and Java round out their top 3 best known languages, while AngularJS, React, and ExpressJS represent their best known frameworks.

When we drill down into their most common daily tasks, we get an even clearer picture of their versatility. Coding new features (73%) and fixing bugs (62%) by far fill most of their days.

These are largely aligned with the general developer population, with a few exceptions. Most notably: full-stack developers are more likely to spend time coding new features and fixing bugs, and are less likely to spend time on documentation and administrative tasks.

What they value

Full-stack developers have a unique set of values when it comes to their work. Take, for example, the priorities they value most when evaluating a job opportunity. Full-stack developers value professional growth as much as the average developer—but they also put less emphasis on having interesting problems to solve, and put a higher emphasis on flexibility:

And that aligns with their day-to-day. According to the data, 35% of full-stack developers already work remotely at least 1 day per week. It’s a slight uptick from the average developer, only 33% of which work from home 1+ day per week. We see a similar pattern in the number of days they want to work from home: 60% of full-stack developers want to work remotely 2+ days per week, whereas 56% of all developers want the same thing.

You can capitalize on their #1 job priority (professional growth & learning) by understanding what languages and frameworks they want to learn next. More specifically, they’re most excited to learn languages like Go, Kotlin, and Python, and frameworks like React, Vue.js, and Django. If your job opening might offer them an opportunity to expand their knowledge on one of those tools, it may play to your advantage.

How to evaluate them

A good company reputation goes a long way when it comes to hiring—and it’s no different for full-stack developers. And the best way to spread a good company reputation? Build a stellar candidate experience.

So what does the average full-stack interview look like? For starters, most full-stack developers (56%) are interviewed by 3 or fewer people. This stays the same when we look at the average developer.

The data shows that full-stack developers rank online coding challenges as their favorite method of technical evaluation. A total of 25% ranked it as their favorite method, followed by take-home projects (20%) and pair programming (15%). They were least enthusiastic about group presentations. This, too, is largely aligned with the rest of the developer population, with one caveat: full-stack developers like whiteboard interviews even less than the average developer (15% of full-stack developers vs. 18% of other developers).

When it comes to their top interview turn-offs, full-stack developers are aligned with the rest of the developer population. In fact, their top 3 turn offs are exactly the same as the average developer: they’re most turned off by lack of clarity, slow follow-up, and culture mismatch.

Key takeaways for hiring full-stack developers

Full-stack developers are an especially challenging role to hire for. Not only are they in high demand, but they’re also notoriously difficult to define (even by their own standards). Here’s what to keep in mind as you search:

Diversity is a major challenge

Full-stack developers are most likely to be men, and to have a bachelor’s degree or higher. With that in mind, those looking to hire diverse full-stack developers (in terms of gender or education background, especially) are unfortunately facing an uphill battle. It may take some additional digging to unearth candidates from a diverse set of backgrounds, given their relative rarity.

But data shows us again and again that diverse teams are invaluable. For this, or any other role, pursuing diversity hiring best practices is a good place to start. You can also consider expanding your reach by upskilling your existing employees, effectively creating a new full-stack candidate pool from within. Public project sites are a concrete sourcing opportunity

The vast majority of full-stack developers have a public projects account: 82% of them, to be exact. And not only do they have accounts on these platforms: they’re spending significant amounts of time there. A total 68% of full-stack developers have contributed to a public project in the last year.

Given their activity level, it makes them a great place to engage full-stack developers on their own turf. But be mindful: these sites are, above all, a space for developers—make sure you’re thoughtful about how you approach them.

Public projects sites are a concrete sourcing opportunity

The vast majority of full-stack developers have a public projects account: 82% of them, to be exact. They’re also more likely to spend time on public projects websites when compared to the average developer.

Given their activity level, it makes them a great place to engage full-stack developers on their own turf. It gives you more tangible glimpse into their work, and helps you get an idea of the types of projects they prefer to work on. Just make sure you wield this resource wisely.

Flexibility is key—even more so than the norm

It’s no secret that flexibility is table stakes for most development roles. But full-stack developers place an even higher emphasis it: flexibility is higher on their priority list than average, and receive more options for remote work. Don’t expect full-stack developers to be wooed by flexibility alone: for them, it’s a prerequisite, not a bonus.

Developer-first hiring always wins

Recruiters are only human: especially at a high candidate volume, there are only so many hours in a day you can contribute to any one candidate. But keeping developers at the heart of your process will go a long way.

Full-stack developers—like the rest of the developer population—are most frustrated by communication missteps. More specifically, they’re most frustrated by lack of clarity on placement, and on lack of (or slow) followup. Avoiding those gripes will improve your company perception through the eyes of these high demand candidates.

And let’s not forget: developers talk. Positive experiences with your tech talent brand will spread from developer to developer—but so will negative experiences. Use it to your advantage!


Want to learn more about what’s motivating today’s developers? Check out our 2019 Developer Skills Report.

[Research] 2019 Developer Skills Report - Read Full Findings

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